Not Offensive, but Boring
Since the Jewish/Neo-Conservative Cabal ruckus (see Ralph Luker's original note's comments for my initial reaction, since removed from the Adbusters website along with hundreds of other responses. My reaction to the full issue was "More to be pitied than censured") Adbusters Magazine has been on probation with me. Editor-in-Chief Lasn's response was uninspiring:"But they're powerful, so we have to wonder" is a rough paraphrase, which doesn't really respond to my critique -- wondering is fine, but analysis is better -- in the slightest.
So I was quite curious about the new issue. Yawn. I think they think they're clever and subversive, but only if this magazine gets, by mistake, into the hands of people who aren't the usual readership. The entire issue is a"history"... well actually, it's a chronology, with some commentary. Yes, I know it is a form of writing history, and Iuseitmyself at times for teaching, but it's not a particularly strong presentation, unless it is, as this is, so relentless as to present a self-evident argument. ... sorry, a history of US military actions and interventions from 17th century Jamestown to the present. The thesis seems to be"Look, the US frequently uses force to achieve its aims and its aims are usually not nice (when they are nice, usually they're a failure)." Our colleagues at the Big Tent might find the former part cheering (actually, they might get a real kick out of this issue; I wonder if any of them are subscribers.... probably not. Guys [I think they're all guys, though"Ren" is ambiguous; apologies if I'm wrong], look for the wine-red cover with a dignified golden eagle perched on a missile with the subheading"Hope and Memory", but I'll warn you, it's $8; the website has a Flash Macromedia version, though, if you like that sort of thing) but will probably come to radically different conclusions from the same data. Which is why I don't think chronologies are particularly good arguments, usually.
There are few bits of references to other thinkers, but they're pretty much clichés at this point: Zinn, Chalmers Johnson's Blowback, Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others. A few boxes highlight anti-militarist writers/activists: Henry David Thoreau's and Abraham Lincoln's opposition to the Mexican-American War, John Quincy Adams' opposition to the Monroe Doctrine, Mark Twain's anti-Imperialism, Jane Addams' feminist pacifism (I didn't realize she had inherited the title of"the most dangerous woman in America" from union activist Mother Jones; I wonder who heads the list now?), Major General Smedley Butler's 1933"I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business" speech, Jeanette Rankin's votes against US entry into both World Wars, lots of anti-Vietnam folks. Towards the end, there's a little more commentary and less chronology, but the commentary doesn't add up to much, frankly.
Best part of the whole thing is the first (non-anti-Semitism) letters section, particularly one by Brendan Short of Austin, Texas:
Your GovernmentTM has been clinically proven to be highly effective in reducing pain. When use as directed it will alleviate discomfort and irritation and help you return to normal productive functioning.... Adverse experiences were typically mild and temporary... Keep Your GovernmentTM and all governments away from children. In case of accidental overdose, seek professional assistance....The reactions to the anti-Semitic articles were pretty typical, and a few folks said that they would continue to read Adbusters, as long as they could find a way to not pay for it (most mentioned stealing, though I would try libraries, myself).
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Jonathan Dresner - 5/20/2004
My problem with the chronology as argument, in addition to the weakness of the presentation, is that there is no explicit connection made between, say, the Mexican-American war and the war in Iraq, which makes it useless as an argument about the present.